The UN Security Council has imposed a ban on illicit diamond exports from Sierra Leone. The move is aimed at removing the source of finance used by rebels from the Revolutionary United Front for the ongoing civil war in the country. It is estimated that rebels earn around $200m a year from illicit diamond sales.

Some fashions may change, but diamonds remain one of the most valuable of international currencies. However, with over 6 million carats arriving annually in countries such as Belgium, their origins are not always clear. The civil war in Sierra Leone has thrived on that uncertainty. The trade in 'conflict diamonds' has been used to arm and fund the rebels of the Revolutionary United Front. Thousands of civilians have been killed or mutilated during the country's civil war.

The UN Security Council voted today for a crackdown on the trade in rough diamonds from Sierra Leone. The council was told that diamonds, not ideology or tribal differences, are at the root of the civil war. Proposing the resolution, Britain said that the lives of civilians have been made miserable by the diamond trade.

The embargo will expire after 18 months, but will be renewed if the RUF rebels still control the mines, and the Sierra Leone government will be asked to set up a proper certification system for the gems. The council members also called on Liberia, named as a transit point for the diamonds, and the diamond industry to comply with the resolution.